ZION TRIP REPORT

This is the trip report for the trip I took to Zion National Park in September of 1997 (Sorry, pictures removed November 1999).

Monday

I'd driven all evening the night before, to get from San Francisco to the middle of nowhere, so when I started driving at 8:00 a.m., I had “only” seven hours of driving ahead of me. The original plan had me arriving at Zion midday and hiking into the backcountry to meet the others by dinner time. But they'd left me a voicemail message that they would be at the Zion campground instead and I was to meet them at 5:00 p.m. That made for a more leisurely drive. Not that there was anything to do or see between Kramer Junction and Zion National Park, except Las Vegas. Which is “coincidentally” where I was when I needed to stop for gas and a restroom break at 11:00 a.m. I figured as long as I needed a restroom, I'd might as well make it a nice one, so I ducked into the Rio (Hotel and Casino). A half hour and forty dollars later, I left the craps table with only the remains of a moderately expensive Bloody Mary. I stopped a few more times during the rest of the drive, for rests, food, restrooms, etc. but avoided the video poker machines that are installed at even the most under-equipped gas stations. When I finally arrived at the campground at 4:15 p.m., my companions were already elsewhere, waiting for me at the 5:00 meeting spot because it was really 5:15 p.m. local time. Utah is in the next time zone. They found and derided me as I was pitching my tent. After a delightful meal of macaroni and cheese, we retired.

Tuesday

Due to poor weather, the others had been unable to hike The Narrows trail on Sunday and Monday as originally planned. They postponed that overnight hike until Wednesday and Thursday, leaving Tuesday open for a day hike and another night at our campsite in the Zion campground. We chose to hike up to Observation Point, an eight mile round trip with a nice view of the canyon from the top. We got a late start in the morning, so we didn't finish the hike until late afternoon. Along the way, we were discussing other hikes for later in the week, especially if weather made The Narrows infeasible again. I suggested that if we were going to hang out every night in the luxury of the campground and not backpack, that (in the manner of the subliminal guy on Saturday Night Live) “there are plenty of other places {Rio} where we could hang out that had other ways {win my money back} of keeping us occupied”. My suggestion was noted (and became a running gag for the week) but we retired to our campsite instead.

Wednesday

We had packed our backpacks the night before, so we were able to get an early start on our two day journey on The Narrows trail. Early, in this case, meant 11:00 a.m., as I recall. The fates were not with us, because we drove to the trailhead in a light drizzle. None of us are usually afraid of hiking in a drizzle, or even rain, but The Narrows is a different thing entirely. The trail follows the Virgin River through the heart of Zion. The river carves a canyon that is 2000 feet deep in some places and parts of the trail are so narrow that a hiker can touch both sides of the canyon at the base of walls that are hundreds of feet tall. Indeed, for a good portion of the hike, the trail is the Virgin River. What this means is any rain in the vicinity is cause for concern because flash floods are dangerous and deadly. We were reminded of the danger by the news clippings in the visitor center which described the recovery of bodies of hikers swept away earlier in the season. We passed on The Narrows.

Our day hike that day was on the Canyon Overlook Trail. The turnaround point of that trail is a spectacular view of the canyon. We also stopped to check out the Gateway to The Narrows trail—the exit point for hikers on The Narrows trail. We met and talked with some backpackers who had hiked The Narrows on Tuesday and Wednesday. We were understandably envious. Our new plan was to keep our packs packed and hike The Narrows the following day (Thursday and Friday), shifting our planned menu by one day. This plan would necessitate eating Friday's dinner on Wednesday and caused so much confusion that we opted to go into town for Chinese food instead.

During dinner, the rain gods frowned and dumped several inches of rain all over the area. We hurried back to camp, set up our tents in the rain, and retired. Thunderstorms battered us all night long.

Thursday

The previous evening's storms made The Narrows unthinkable. After discarding several other options {Rio}, we chose the Deertrap Mountain Trail to Cable Mountain. High atop one of the cliffs in Zion is the remains of a cable station where, 100 years ago, logs were lowered into the valley after being cut on the plateau above. The hike took us through a rather forested area and ended at the top of the cliff where the cable apparatus still sits. The view was, as might be expected, spectacular. I'm not sure photographs will do it justice, but I know we were all trying. In fact some of us were forced to buy film midway through the trip and only had to pay three or four times the Price Club price.

Friday

Since a few people were leaving Friday, a trip down The Narrows for Friday and Saturday was not an option. Those of us remaining decided we'd seen enough of Zion and headed for the Grand Canyon (north rim). It was only a four hour drive and is purported to be a better view and less crowded than the more famous and easily accessible south rim. I think I agree. We easily found a campground a few miles from the visitor center, dumped our gear and headed for the rim. We hiked a very leisurely trail to a picturesque overlook and started snapping pictures. The same leisurely trail took us back to the car where we found a leisurely bar and ate a leisurely dinner in a park snack bar. Ahhhh, camping!

Saturday

Not satisfied with the amount of driving we'd already done, we decided a comparison of the north rim and south rim was necessary. We packed up the cars early (this time, early meant 7:15 a.m.) and headed for Srimaz (“N Rim AZ” is what the post office sign says at the north rim so we just assumed...) After another four hour drive, we again easily found a campground a few miles from the south rim visitor center, dumped our gear and headed for the rim. At this rim, the picturesque overlooks were quite close to the road, so the only hiking we did was from the car to the metal rail. We did about seven “griswolds” between the campground and the visitors center (the term “griswold” is from the name of Chevy Chase's fictional family in the movie Vacation—if you remember the movie, you know what I mean). I definitely think the view was as good or better from the north rim the day before, unless you're interested in viewing masses of tourists all taking the same picture from the same spot. What the south rim does have going for it is better taverns. We found one and settled in for a few rounds before the ranger talk that evening. After the talk, we found some pay-showers and cleaned up. They have everything at the Grand Canyon.

Sunday

Nothing but driving. It took us about eight hours to get home, by way of Phoenix and Yuma. At least we avoided the Sunday-come-home-from-Vegas traffic on interstate 15.

All in all it was a very good trip. We did avoid even the slightest bit of actual backpacking on this year's backpacking trip, but there's always next year.

Until then,